Can Asia outwit Sun Tzu's strategy?

Can Asia outwit Sun Tzu's strategy?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe feels Japan is unfairly singled out for wrongs that were more widespread than their accusers admit.

On May 30, top defence officials in the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Singapore to participate in the three-day annual Shangri-La security dialogue.

On the first day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "Japan will spare no effort to make regional stability, peace, and prosperity into something rock solid", and pledged his commitment to the security of the countries in the region.

On the next day, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that the US had more peacetime military engagement in the Asia-Pacific than ever before, and declared that US rebalance towards Asia was "not a goal, not a promise, or a vision" but "a reality".

In the face of concerted pressure, Chinese Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong, who led the Chinese delegation, was on the defensive. He accused Japan and the US of provocation and intimidation, and said they had coordinated their attacks.

Making commitments

In lateApril, US President Barack Obama made a seven-day trip to Asia, visiting Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. The message was clear: The US was truly rebalancing towards Asia, and his country's commitment to the security of its allies and friends was unwavering.

In Tokyo, Mr Obama stated that US treaty commitment to Japan's security was "absolute" and said that the US would defend all territories under Japan's administration "including the Senkaku Islands". Such statements have been made by US officials before, but it was the first time a US president had done so.

Just before Mr Obama arrived in Manila, the US and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. The pact gave US forces access to the Philippines on a rotational basis. It also allowed the US to position and store defence equipment, supplies and material. For all practical purposes, US forces are now going back to the Philippines.

On May 15, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in a televised press conference that he would seek to reinterpret the Japanese Constitution to make it possible for his country to start exercising the right of collective self-defence. If this is achieved, Japan's Self-Defence Forces would be able to defend not only Japan but its allies as well.

One of Mr Abe's advisers has said that Japan will soon start working closely with countries such as Australia, the Philippines and India on security matters. With the new right of collective self-defence, Japan will be able to participate in joint military training and exercises, joint patrol activities, intelligence-sharing operations and capacity-building activities.

In fact, Japan has already decided to provide 10 new patrol boats to the Philippine coast guard and three to Indonesia. Similar assistance to Vietnam is under consideration.

The Japanese government has also decided to lift a ban on arms export and international joint arms development. Based on this policy change, Japan and Australia are currently talking about the possible transfer of submarine technologies to help fulfil the latter's defence requirements.

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